First Hour, Children’s Worship and Themes

We are going to offer expanded programming before the service starting this fall. It will be called First Hour. We will offer faith formation options across the lifespan, for all ages and interests. For now, we’re calling this “religious development” time. This is a time for learning together, growth, and play.

During the service, we will continue to have some multigenerational services, and some services where the children are sung out to do separate activities during the sermon. This year, the language will change to call all of this “worship.” This is a time for ritual, reflection, a sense of wonder or awe, and connection to things larger than ourselves.

My dream is that even if you are a parent who arrives for a first-time visit, and you stay with the children’s group because you all want to stay together, you still leave St. John’s having had an experience that instills a sense of wonder.

Classes during First Hour will not be on a school year basis – instead there will be multiple themes for the year in approximately three month blocks, with December as a standalone focus.

This year the themes will be:

  • Your Place in the Universe, mid Aug through Nov
  • A Christmas Carol, Dec
  • Dismantling Colonialism, Jan through Mar
  • Environments of Abundance, April and May
  • TBD – July and August

What happens during any given three month block will depend somewhat on volunteers and programming. We hope to offer several adult programs, and opportunities for unstructured socializing and teaching of skills – if you’d like to teaching cooking, or crochet, that will be welcome. With enough volunteers we will be able to offer classes for approximately: preschool age, lower elementary, upper elementary, and teen – or we may combine age groups depending on need and the theme for the season.

The schedule on Sunday will look something like:

  • Breakfast and socializing, teacher check in: 9am-9:30am
  • Classes: 9:30-10:30am
  • Transition to service:10:30-11am
  • Service: 11am-12:15pm
  • Coffee hour: 12:15pm

Questions to consider:

For parents and families:

  • What are you looking for from faith formation at St. John’s for your children?
  • What would you hope for yourself during First Hour, if your children are busy in classes? Would you teach, attend an adult focused class, sit and socialize, or would you meditate or sit in silence if that was available?
  • What main concerns do you have about the plan as you understand it now? I will appreciate your questions now, while things are still developing!

If you were to lead a group or class during First Hour, from 9:30-10:30:

  • If you were to lead a class, why would you be doing it? Would it be to get to know children or adults in the congregation, present something you know well, motivate others to do something that matters to you, perform a duty to the congregation?
  • Would you gravitate first to working with children or adults? Why?
  • If you consider working with children, what age groups do you feel comfortable with? What age groups do you feel unsure about, but have a strong interest in developing more of a connection with?
  • Thinking of the year, is there a lighter season for you, when you’d be more able to commit to more Sundays? The ideal would be for teachers to be available for most Sundays of the session they commit to – this provides consistency for children, and allows for connection and routines.
  • What are your main sources of concern or anxiety, where I as the religious educator could provide support?
  • What would be truly exciting for you, even if it seems like it’s asking too much?

First Hour is going to provide opportunities to “huddle,” both based on interest and in age groups. I’ve also started calling this “religious development” time, to separate it form “worship.”

The service will continue to be an opportunity to “mix.’ Worship is the time we come together and grow as a community. Some services will have everyone in the service except for the youngest. However, some services children will leave for “children’s worship” of their own.

 If that sounds inspiring to you, let me know!

-Ashleigh Rhodes, 303-478-4445,